In a semi-sequel to 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, earnest music industry gofer Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is charged with transporting Russell Brand-esque cock-rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. Directed by Marshall’s Nick Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, this is a film that far exceeds expectations, both a pulse-pounding comedy and pitch-perfect character piece. In the vein of Apatow’s Walk Hard, Greek lampoons the absurdities of excess, the fickle back-flips of the celebrity sphere and the calculating madness of star and schlub alike.
Performances are uniformly superb. Jonah Hill continues his run as the break-out member of Apatow’s Brat Pack, having shined from his debut in I Heart Huckabees, through side parts in Knocked-Up and Walk Hard, and as headliner in 2008’s Superbad. Here, Hill brings rounded warmth to his role as Green, a twenty-something who loves his Mars Volta but harbours a fanboy leaning towards Snow and his band, Infant Sorrow.
Contrasted with Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs’ music exec Sergio Roma (in which Combs makes Dave Chappelle’s parody of him a distant memory), Green’s love of music is decidedly analogue. We’re talking cassette bootlegs, worn posters and reunion concerts. This kind of medium fetish is how many a nine-to-five schlub holds onto their youthful fire, and Hill channels that fire with very endearing results. It’s the memory of Infant Sorrow, selling out at the Greek a decade before (oddly locating their peak within the late nineties?) that drives Hill to rehabilitate his hero.
Not that the hero won’t put up a fight. Russell Brand proves his worth as a leading man (though who can guess as to his range) in Aldous Snow’s self-immolating, eye-of-the-storm sprint from start to finish. From the film’s vicious lampoon of ham-handed Bono-esque sentiment (Snow’s last album ‘African Child’ deemed “The worst thing to hit Africa since Apartheid”) to the tabloid rush of TMZ and Today show trainwrecking, Brand certainly nails the paranoid-schizophrenic scattering of elements with ease. Falling off the wagon and losing his soul mate Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, and who can’t say they’re still reeling from the Rosebyrne), Snow is exactly where you expect him to be – he’s everywhere at once. Brand hits every note, from playboy to man-child to tortured soul, and lifts his character from a one-note joke to an enduring, if slippery, human being.
Elsewhere, the cast is rounded by every actor you’ve ever heard of, and the intertext-buzz never fails to register. As mentioned, Sean Combs chews the scenery like a shark, and the film’s world is populated by, among others, by Pink, Pharrell, economist Paul Krugman (!!) and Lars Ulrich in precise, consistently awesome cameos. Kristen Bell returns and Kristen Schaal sparks, both briefly.
There are only two slips of note. First, after one’s Trekkie-swooning subsides, Colm Meaney’s role as Aldous Snow’s father comes across as somewhat underdeveloped. Secondly, Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, as Aaron’s girlfriend, displays an odd turn of character in the film’s late second act. Of course in both cases, these slips can be forgiven, as they ground two of the film’s most entertaining sequences. The image of Russell Brand swooping into your marital bed like a bald eagle is enough to inspire symphonies.
Finally, as Greek is essentially a twitterati’s Walk Hard, a word on the score. The film’s payoff, in which (let’s face it, you know this already) Snow gets got where he’s going, is perhaps Greek’s slowest point. This is because the Infant Sorrow songs, while offering a prima facie parody of your average cock rock classics, are far more one-note comedy than the rest of the film, and definitely less enduring than Dewey Cox’s back catalogue. Of course, this film is less about the music, and more about the peculiar souls in, around and shoved up it. Get Him to the Greek never fails to entertain, and stands as one of 2010’s standout comedies.